During the weekend of October 6, several members of Divine Heart Seminary’s class of 1967 came together for an informal reunion at Sacred Heart Monastery. Fr. Bernie Rosinski, SCJ, one of their teachers, was asked to be the main celebrant at a mass they shared together on Saturday. Fr. Bernie shares his homily on the blog:
The background to today’s event and the details of what led up to it, you have already talked about over the past two days in your conversations around small tables, on lounge chairs or bar stools. But here you are all gathered now, ostensibly to celebrate the 50th anniversary of your graduation in 1967 from Divine Heart Seminary – an institution that no longer exists.
Since “CD” has been defunct for 38 years now I have been puzzling through why you came to this reunion. It can’t be nostalgia. Over the past 50 years each of you has gone his separate way: an education beyond high school, maybe military service, probably married and with a family of children and grandchildren; you entered a profession or acquired a livelihood in or near your hometown or somewhere else in this vast country or ours. During the course of these past 50 years you have faced crises, stresses, and life’s usual curveballs: job loss, new job, relocation, natural disasters, illness, and possibly death of loved ones. These things that happen to us over the years in the course of God’s providence, all these factors, tend to turn our attention away from youthful and past things, to spin us off into the small worlds we have made for ourselves.
Small worlds change and rock for a bit, though, when there is an occasion, an anniversary, a milestone. We become pensive, meditative, even contemplative. We mull over certain highlights from our past, the directions we took, the achievements and accomplishments for which we were given credit, and the people who helped us achieve and accomplish then. A 50th reunion is just one such occasion.
You can imagine, then, why I am so curious as to why you have come to this 50th anniversary reunion. What power, what energy, what force, what memories brought you here? High school is so distant, so passé (a nod to Fr. van der Peet), so long-gone that surely it could not have provided the incentive, the motive to spend time and money to travel great distances to be here.
Now one thing I never did, or at least I hope I never did, was to think that Donaldson students were stupid. After my days at “CD” ended as a faculty member, former students and graduates have told me countless tales of how they managed to do things like sneak beer onto the grounds, to sneak liquor out of the SCJ rec room, and all kinds of other surprising escapades (I may even learn more of them at this reunion). And all the time that we SCJs and our lay associates thought we were educating you in the accepted “system” of things, “forming” you as we used to call it, you were educating yourselves in how to beat “the system.” Everything I have said up till now, as I am sure you can guess since you are not stupid, is leading up to a point. I am setting a scene which I would now like to explore with you. The WHY? Why are you here at this anniversary reunion?
You may recall these familiar words: Leo John Dehon, immolation, oblation, reparation, and love; you heard them many times in sermons, homilies, conferences, retreats, and off-the-cuff classroom remarks. Fr. Dehon as Founder, you will recall, called upon the SCJs and all those associated with them to make a difference in the world through love. In his own words: all were to establish the kingdom of God in souls and in society through love. Lay people were to be the ferment, the yeast; the world was their proper domain. That was the great teaching of Fr. Dehon which anticipated, by many years, the great lesson from Vatican Council II.
As Dehonians we SCJs had educational goals in mind for the students who came to us that went beyond training in languages, literature, math, science, history, and the other humanities. There was more than soccer and basketball, intramurals, self-discipline, and responsibility for housework and farm work. There was more than the social graces of respectful treatment of others whether on or off campus. In all these activities you interacted with each other, learned from each other, modeled for each other, and bonded with each other. In the same vein, for better or worse, we SCJs sought to be models for you, to exemplify, by our behavior toward our fellow SCJs and toward you our students, those principles of living that we learned from Fr Dehon which we attempted to translate into respect, honor, esteem, affection, caring, and yes even love. We sincerely wanted each of our students to shine like stars in the sky, like diamonds in the sky, knowing full well that most of you did not have a true call to be religious or priests. Deep down we SCJs knew that you, future priest or future layperson, were the only way we could bring Dehon’s message to the world. You had to be our words, our agents out in the world. You were our hope that through you we could make the world a better place.
One of my favorite James Bond movies is the film Diamonds are Forever. Blofelt, the villain, is stealing diamonds so he can send a satellite dish into the sky in which the stolen diamonds serve as reflectors of sunlight onto the earth. Each diamond is singular and unique, but when paired and arranged in the satellite dish, each singular diamond in the matrix reflects light conjointly with the rest of the matrix, with greatly augmented power and force, upon the world. I have always seen that movie image as a metaphor for God’s dealings with the world, God’s own light, after Jesus’ own words in the gospel of John: I am the way, the truth, and the light. The Book of Daniel melds together Jesus’ words plus the Bond movie image in this way: Those who are wise, who lead many to righteousness, shall shine like the brightness of the sky, like the stars forever and ever. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians makes the same point. You, graduates, jubilarians, were meant to be those stars, those diamonds, those lights in the sky that were to shine down on the world and lead many to righteousness.
Recognizing what you received then and what you bestowed upon each other by yourselves and with our help, the reason you came here was, I surmise, to recapture that spirit of Fr. Dehon, to burnish that brightness, and to renew that mission. At least, this is my assessment of the motives and the reasons that brought here back here. Something stuck with you. Something meant something to you.
To me, the words found in today’s reading from St. Paul
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious… (Phil. 4:6-9)
sparkle and glitter like a single diamond with many-facets. These are the virtues that you must bring to bear on our world; this is what you must reflect and shower on our desperate world. Reverting again to that Bond movie image, like diamonds in the sky mirroring God’s light on the world, you must illumine that same world with your light, teach it with your virtues of truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness and graciousness, and warm it with your hearts. This has to be your mission and apostolate until the moment you face your creator. This has to be how you practice immolation, reparation, and oblation – in love.
I call upon you, therefore, to renew your SCJ mission to the world. To quote St. Paul once again from today’s reading: keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and – to absolutely avoid any pretentiousness on my part – I would substitute: what you have learned and received and heard and seen in us, in you, in each other… And for my mistakes and our mistakes, forgive us. God bless you and yours.
Well said Fr. Bernie! I, too, have reflected on Fr. Dehon’s teachings throughout my adult life. Randy Fischesser ’73